Growing up on a farm in the rural town of New Virginia, Iowa, Randy Kohrs was raised like every other kid in the area, getting up early to feed the animals before school, and performing various other chores until the sun went down. At the age of eight, however, it became clear that he was not destined to spend his life on a farm when his uncle, Jack Ferguson, brought over an acoustic guitar, showed him a few things, and Randy was hooked. Having been taught to earn everything you get, a young Randy actually purchased the guitar from his uncle for around $100. Around the age of ten, Randy became more fascinated with his Uncle Jack’s main instrument, the resophonic guitar, or dobro, and was determined to learn to play that, too. So, in his typical industrious style, he raised a feeder calf and purchased his first dobro when he was eleven.
In two short years, he began playing full-time with the Missouri-based band, Possum Trot, and stayed with them for ten years. At fifteen, he began playing country music, as well, with a local band, which he later fronted, throughout the Des Moines area. Throughout this time, Randy had been developing his uniquely soulful and powerful tenor voice, along with his repertoire of other instruments, including electric guitar, mandolin, banjo, pedal steel, and bass. In spite of what reads as an already impossibly busy schedule, he also managed to work with his father, a retired mechanic of the National Guard who had then opened his own shop, propelling him to also earn his degree in Automotive Collision Repair. Soon enough, Randy was running his own business and still playing music on the side.
His popularity continued to grow as his reputation spread throughout the Midwest, and soon, he realized the only move left to make was to Nashville, a place he had only visited (and had even played on the legendary Grand Ole Opry with Mike Snider and the White’s). In 1994, shortly after the passing of his father, a grieving, yet hopeful, Randy loaded up a moving truck and headed to the city.
In three short weeks, Randy found himself playing incredibly grueling schedules down on Lower Broadway in Maggie Magee’s (now the Nashville Crossroads), and doing light collision work and auto detailing based out of his home. It was soon obvious the dues paid in his native Iowa were null and void in the notoriously brutal Music City.
In 1995, during one of his nightly solo gigs, an impressed Hank Williams III walked through the door and hired him immediately for his own band. For the next month, the band played some showcases and was signed to a major record label. Per usual, any day off the diligent Randy had from Hank III, he could be found back down on Lower Broadway playing, where his reputation as a multiple-threat began to spread around town.
It so happened that the legendary Tom T. Hall was in need of a multi-instrumentalist in his band, so he sent his personal assistant down to Maggie Magee’s to check out the young newcomer that had been garnering the attention of several reputable musicians in town. Following a quick audition, Randy was off a week later on his first major tour, which notably included a solid month in Australia. The following spring of 1997, Tom T. retired from the road and Randy found himself back on Lower Broad playing regular gigs at the Turf, a real hotspot on the renowned road. Never daunted or beaten down, he just looked at it all as work, some more pleasurable than others, because there were some musicians in town who weren’t working at all so he was just grateful for anything that came his way.
That same summer, David Parmley went down to the Turf specifically to hear Randy play and at seven the next morning, Randy was on a bus headed to Canada with the rest of Continental Divide. For the next two years, he sang tenor and some lead and played dobro with them, recording the album” Feel Good Day,” which made it to the top five on the Bluegrass charts and the top twenty on the Americana charts.
Following that departure, he toured with several other smaller country acts and then later with Holly Dunn for two years, which mostly included weekly Opry appearances. In late 2000, John Cowan offered Randy a gig playing dobro and singing tenor, a task few people in this world have the voice to do, yet he performed seemingly effortlessly and can be heard on Cowan’s release “Always Takes Me Back.”
While grateful to be working with so many great acts, it was always Randy’s dream to have a solo career. In 2001, he released his debut solo recording “A Crack In My Armour” on Junction Records. Mixed with several original songs, it earned him new respect among the Nashville songwriting and gained plenty of industry notoriety, but still achieved little commercial success. It was followed by a traditional country album, “Now It’s Empty,” which Randy released on his own label, Left of Center records.
In 2003, he accepted a gig with the infamous Dolly Parton and sang and played dobro with the “Blueniques” for two years. In addition to playing on three of her CD’s, he also was her opening act, spreading his name even further. In 2004, Dolly recorded a duet with Randy, entitled “It Looked Good On Paper,” found on his latest release, “I’m Torn,” on Lonesome Day Records. It spent eight months on the Bluegrass charts, climbing to the top five, and three of the singles have charted for months at a time, additionally, on various bluegrass and Americana charts.
The success of this project, along with a budding career as a session player in Nashville, proved to be a catalyst in Randy’s solo career. To date, he has played on over 500 CD’s, ranging from legends such as Hank Thompson and Jerry Reed to current chart-topping artists including Dierks Bentley and The Wreckers. Not to mention the countless bluegrass recordings he’s played on for such well-known acts as Larry Sparks, Rhonda Vincent, Mark Newton, Bradley Walker, Lou Reid, and 3 Fox Drive, to barely scratch the surface. Moreover, his reputation as a producer and engineer is growing as word of the professional recording studio he’s been building the past two years is leaking out. Backed by one of the hottest young bluegrass bands on the circuit, it appears Randy Kohrs’ tireless persistence and hard work, in combination with his extraordinary God-given talent, is now leading him towards his much-deserved lifelong dream career of longevity and success.
Ashley Brown, a resident of Nashville, TN, has played with Randy Kohrs Band intermittently since October of 2005, and joined full time in May of 2006 playing fiddle and singing harmony. She began playing violin/fiddle at age six while living in Littleton, CO. Her attention in the instrument was elevated following her move to the Texas coast in the late 1980's and the introduction to the world of Texas contest fiddling. She has won several contests, including the Texas Jr. State Championships in 1995, the Middle Tennessee State Championships in 2001, the Indiana State Championships in 2005, and placed in countless others, such as the prestigious Winfield contest, in which she won 2 nd in 1996. Ashley is an alumnus of the commercial music/bluegrass program of South Plains College in Levelland, TX under Alan Munde and Joe Carr. She has since performed in theaters in Pigeon Forge, TN from 1998-1999, taught private lessons and performed with several bands in Asheville, NC and Nashville, TN, and done occasional session work throughout her musical career. Aside from providing fiddle and vocals on both the forthcoming Randy Kohrs solo album and the Randy Kohrs Band CD, Ashley has also co-written a few of the new songs on Kohrs' solo CD. (back to top)
No stranger to Winfield, Mike Sumner adds his Championship-winning talent to the band. He started with a strong Scruggs base and added a melodic and chromatic twist. Strongly influenced by Mike Snider, Mike says “His tasteful playing seemed like the right way to play.” Mike still loves his playing today.
In May of 2007 Mike released his debut CD entitled Winds of Winfield. Supplying their tremendous skills on the CD is Grammy Award winning Randy Kohrs, also names well-known at the Festival, Grammy Award winning Cody Kilby and Andy Leftwich. Cody also engineered the CD at his studio in Nashville, TN with the assistance of Grammy Award winning Phil Harris. Bryn Davies supplied powerful bass playing talent to finish off the instrumental melodies.
Mike plays a black walnut Stealth 5 string. He also plays with Detour, a group from Northwest Michigan.
Mike says “I had the chance to travel the contest circuit and meet some amazing bluegrassers! It's a privilege to play music and share the passion that goes with the language of music.”
Josh Williams IBMA 2008 Guitar Player of the Year is happier than ever working with his own band, and playing his own style of bluegrass music. Joshua Seth Williams was born on November 20, 1980 in Murray, Kentucky, the second son of Tony & Terri Williams. He and his older brother, Justin, were raised in a modest home in Benton, Kentucky, a small town in western Kentucky. His grandmother, the late Mary Neale Williams, was the first to notice Josh’s interest in music. Mary Neale was a gifted poet and vocalist who often entertained, in the western Kentucky area, at civic clubs and charitable functions. She would sing and accompany herself on the ukulele, but was also a competent guitar and mandolin player. She actually began Josh’s musical career by showing him how to play the ukulele when he was only five years old. A short time later, his dad began showing Josh some chords on the guitar. Josh’s family often had friends and relatives over to play music and sing in their home, and Josh always enjoyed these occasions. Josh actually started taking banjo lessons from western Kentucky legend, Scottie Henson, at the age of eight. Josh studied with Henson for approximately two years, all the while teaching himself to play mandolin, dobro, and guitar. Josh is now a competent player of all the bluegrass instruments. He successfully performed with his own band during high school, “High Gear”, as well as “Hyper Drive” with Scott and Chris Thile, and New Haven Records youth band “The Young Acoustic All-Stars”. After graduation from high school he spent five years on the road with “Special Consensus”, followed by four years of three hundred days per year touring with “The Rage”. Josh claims Doc Watson and Tony Rice as his biggest influences on guitar. Josh lives in Burns, TN, just outside Nashville. You can also catch Josh on the Festival stages with his band, the Josh Williams Band.